January 15, 2008 09:53
The Korean-American businessman at the heart of the BBK investment scandal on the first day of his trial at the Seoul Central District Court on Monday denied all charges and accused prosecutors of distorting the truth. Kim Kyung-joon is accused of stock fraud linked to an elaborate boiler-room operation. Prosecutors vowed to prove all charges against Kim, who devoted 15 minutes out of a 20-minute statement time to attacking them.
Kim complained that prosecutors banned him from corresponding with his wife and his sister Erica Kim, a former U.S. lawyer, and pressured him to hire a specific lawyer. He said prosecutors kept trying to persuade him to admit the charges with threats of more severe punishment if he continued to deny them. He added he was "disappointed" at Korean prosecutors who he said were "trampling on the Korean Constitution." Reading a prepared statement, Kim wept when he recalled his tough childhood in the U.S. His mother, who sat in the audience, was seen to dab at her eyes.
To complicate matters further, Kim denied his extradition to Seoul had been politically motivated, as the Grand National Party has claimed, to benefit the election prospects of the ruling party by embarrassing GNP candidate Lee Myung-bak, Kim's former business partner. Kim said he "wanted to come to Korea" after he won U.S. civil suits involving a company named DAS, which was allegedly held in proxy for president-elect Lee by his brother and brother-in-law. But he said he only returned Korea in November because Lee and his camp "prevented him from returning" earlier under his own steam. Kim denies stock-price fixing, embezzlement and document forgery.
The prosecution counter-attacked. Counsel said prosecutors were within their rights to ban Kim from exchanging letters with Erica Kim because the two were accomplices. They also denied trying to get Kim to confess with promises of a lighter sentence. Prosecutors presented 27 evidence folders against Kim. "The falsehood of Kim's claims will be proven when the evidence is examined," a prosecutor said.
Kim kept insisting on his U.S. citizenship. Asked to give his name, the accused answered, "Christopher Kim." A puzzled judge asked again, "Isn't your name Kim Kyung-joon?" Kim replied, "Kim Kyung-joon was my childhood name." Indeed, Kim changed his name to Christopher Kim in the U.S. in September 2001. Denouncing Korean prosecutors, Kim said he was "shocked as a U.S. citizen." He appealed to the judge to make "the right decision." The trial reconvenes on Feb. 4.
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